Articles Posted in Property

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BK Ct. ND IL EDIn re: Richard D. Olson, 16-01356 Chapter 13
Bankruptcy Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Div.
Opinion Date: June 22, 2016 Judge Schmetterer

This Memorandum Opinion addresses the feasibility and good faith of a Chapter 13 Plan of Reorganization filed on the even of foreclosure by a homeowner. The Mortgagee bank wanted to shut down the case and the Plan. The Court said “not so fast” and prepared a carefully crafted analysis of each objection filed by the bank.

Facts

Richard Olson filed four Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Petitions and Plans in a five year period- the last one on the eve of the foreclosure of his home. Ventures Trust 2013-I-H-R (“Mortgagee”), assignee of the Debtor’s original mortgage lender Bank of America, objected to confirmation of the latest Plan on the basis that it failed to comply with the confirmation requirements in 11 USC §§1325(a)(1), (a)(3), (a)(6) and (a)(7). Specifically, the Mortgagee alleged that there were inaccuracies in the Debtor’s schedules, that the Debtor had failed to correctly value certain obligations while not disclosing others at all, that the Plan was not “feasible,” and that both the case and the Plan had been filed in “bad faith.” In response, the Debtor amended his Bankruptcy Schedules to address some of the inaccuracies.

It is worth noting that the Plan under review in this case proposed curing mortgage defaults per §1322(a)(5) and reinstating monthly mortgage payments to the Mortgagee; as well as committing all the Debtor’s disposable income for the maximum commitment period of 60 months. General Unsecured Creditors are scheduled to receive not less than 2% of the face value of their claims.

The Court entered a Memorandum Opinion on the balance of the Mortgagee’s Objection before ruling on confirmation of the Plan.
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Jepson v. Bank of New York Mellon
Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit  Docket No. 14-2459

Opinion Date: March 22, 2016

This case is a testament to the subprime crisis and illustrates how complex and devastating mortgage securitization and pooling was to ordinary homeowners; middle-class people faced with sudden and insurmountable mortgage debt. Sadly, this decision also illustrates just how hard it is to stand up to the holders of pooled mortgage loans.

The underlying facts of the case are so common that the Plaintiff could have been anyone; while the tortuous path of the case up to the 7th Circuit – years after the underlying foreclosure and bankruptcy – left this Plaintiff financially devastated.

Factual Background

Patricia Jepson (Jepson) executed a Note and Mortgage issued by “America’s Wholesale Lender” – a d/b/a of notorious subprime mortgagee Countrywide – and Mortgage Electronics Registration Systems (MERS), its nominee. The Note was endorsed by Countrywide d/b/a America’s Wholesale Lender and transferred to CWABS, a residential mortgage trust operating under New York law that pooled loans and sells mortgage-backed securities sold on Wall Street. CWABS is governed by a Pooling and Service Agreement (PSA). Bank of New York Mellon (BNYM) was the Trustee for CWABS. MERS therefore assigned Jepson’s mortgage to BNYM.

When Jepson eventually defaulted on her mortgage – a common scenario in such subprime traps – BNYM filed a Foreclosure complaint in State Court. Jepson inturn filed Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. BNYM predictably moved to lift the Automatic Stay. But instead of lying down and letting the Bank proceed, Jepson filed an Adversary Complaint and Objection seeking a declaration that BNYM had no interest in her mortgage because, inter alia, the note did not proceed through a complete chain of intervening endorsements; was endorsed after the closing date in the PSA; and that America Wholesale Lender was a fictitious entity rendering the Note was void under Illinois law. Continue reading

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Continental Casualty Company v. Symons, et al.
7th Circuit Court of Appeals Citation: 14-2665, 14-2671 & 15-106

Decided: March 22, 2016

This fraudulent transfer case pits 2 insurance company’s – as well as the controlling family of the seller and their related businesses – against one another. despite some fancy footwork on the part of the sellers, the Court saw through the ruse to the heart of the deceit. The upshot: if it quacks like a duck then it probably is. To nobody’s surprise, fraudulent transfers were found and liability followed close behind.

Factual Background

IGF Insurance Company owed Continental Casualty Company more than $25 million for a crop-insurance business it bought in 1998. In 2002 IGF resold the business to Acceptance Insurance Company for approximately $40 million. Continental alleged in the District Court that IGF’s controlling family — Gordon, Alan, and Doug Symons — structured the sale so that most of the purchase price was siphoned into the coffers of other Symons-controlled companies rendering IGF insolvent. Specifically, Continental claimed that $24 million of the $40 million purchase price went to 3 Symons-controlled companies—Goran Capital, Inc.; Symons International Group, Inc.; and Granite Reinsurance Co.—for sham noncompetition agreements and a superfluous and over-priced reinsurance treaty. Continental, still unpaid, sued for breach of contract and fraudulent transfer.

In 1998 IGF bought Continental’s crop-insurance business at a price to be determined at either side’s option by the exercise of a put or call option. In 2001 Continental exercised its put option; under the contractual formula, IGF owed Continental $25.4 million. At that same time, IGF sold its business to Acceptance for $40 million. The Symons, who controlled IGF, structured the purchase price: $16.5 million to IGF; $9 million to IGF’s parent companies Symons International and Goran in exchange for noncompetition agreements; and $15 million to Granite, an affiliated Symons-controlled company, for a reinsurance treaty. Continental, still unpaid, sued for breach of contract and fraudulent transfer.

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In re: Great Lakes Quick Lube, LP
7th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals
No. 15-2093 Decided Mar. 11, 2016

In this case the value of unexpired commercial leases was put to the test. When a popular auto-repair/oil-change franchise went into Chapter 11, its unsecured creditors sought to recoup the value of 2 unexpired leases it relinquished just before filing. The 7th Circuit analyzed the issue under 2 provisions of the Bankruptcy Code and ultimately decided that the terminated leases were an asset of the Estate and that letting them go was tantamount to an improper pre-filing transfer.

Factual Background

Great Lakes Quick Lube LP (Great Lakes) owned oil change and automotive repair stores throughout the Midwest. Its business model included selling stores to shareholders and leasing them back. One such arrangement was made with T.D. Investments I, LLP (TDI), which leased 2 stores to Great Lakes. But in 2012, under mounting financial pressure, Great Lakes terminated its TDI leases.

Adversary Case in Bankruptcy

Ultimately, Great Lakes sought Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection less than 60 days after terminating the TDI leases. The Estate’s Unsecured Creditors’ Committee filed an Adversary action contending that those lease terminations amounted to either a preferential or fraudulent transfer by Great Lakes to TDI, and that the value of those leases should be disgorged to the Bankruptcy Estate. The Bankruptcy Court denied relief to the Unsecured Creditors’ Committee because, in its analysis, termination of the TDI leases was not a “transfer” at all – much less a preferential or fraudulent transfer.

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Henderson Square Condo. Ass’n v. LAB Townhomes, LLC
Illinois Supreme Court , Case No. 2015 IL 118139
Opinion Nov. 4, 2015 – Rehearing Denied Jan. 28, 2016

This case stems from the ill-fated Lincoln-Belmont-Ashland Redevelopment project featured on our Blog before. When a Condominium Association sued the developers based on failure to reveal construction defects, the Courts weighed in on whether the claims were time-barred. Untimely, the Appellate and Supreme Court broke with the Trial Court and found that a question of fact remained as to what the Plaintiff Condominium Association knew – or should have known – and when. Only after answering that question, the Court decided, could it be determined if certain claims were time barred.

Factual Background

In 2006 Defendants developed and sold unites pursuant to a contract with the City of Chicago for the mixed use Lincoln-Belmont-Ashland Redevelopment project. In 2011 Henderson Square Condominium Association sued the developers of the community, alleging: breach of implied warranty of habitability, fraud, negligence, breach of the prohibition in the Chicago Municipal Code as to the misrepresentation of material facts in marketing and selling real property, and breach of a fiduciary duty.

Trial Court

The Trial Court dismissed the Condo Association’s Complaint because it concluded that Plaintiffs failed to adequately plead the Chicago Municipal Code violation and breach of fiduciary duty and that certain of the Counts were time-barred pursuant to 735 ILCS 5/13-214 and 5/2-619.

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Smith v. Sipi, LLC
7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
Docket 15-1166 Date:Jan. 20, 2016

In this case from right in our neighborhood – Joliet, Illinois – the Bankruptcy Court and 7th Circuit agree that using the market value of property instead of its artificially low disposal price in a tax sale reflects the real intent of both Bankruptcy law and Illinois law. At the same time, both Courts agree that one taking from a tax-sale buyer is entitled to bona fide purchaser protection.

Background

The Smiths lived in a single-family home in Joliet, Illinois. In 2004 Mrs. Smith inherited the property. While living there in 2000, she and her husband failed to pay the real estate taxes, giving rise to a tax lien in favor of Will County. At a 2001 auction, SIPI purchased the tax lien and paid the delinquent taxes of $4,046.26 plus costs.Mrs. Smith did not redeem that tax obligation and SIPI recorded its Tax Deed in 2005; ultimately selling the property to Midwest for $50,000.

Procedural History

In 2007 the Smiths filed for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy protection and successfully sought to avoid the Tax Sale. Both the Bankruptcy Court and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that under the terms of 11 U.S.C. 548(a)(1)(B) the property was not transferred for reasonably equivalent value. However, both Courts did find that Midwest was a “subsequent transferee in good faith” (i.e. a bona fide purchaser) entitled to retain the value of the property it had purchased.

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1010 Lake Shore Ass’n v. Deutsche Bank National Trust Co.
2015 IL 118372 Date: December 3, 2015

The Illinois Supreme Court recently ruled on the tricky interplay between the Illinois Condominium Property Act and Illinois Mortgage Foreclosure Law. Both pieces of legislation are meant to give real estate owners, investors, managers, and ultimately residents, confidence that their needs will be met through the legal process. In this case however, the Bank was ultimately trumped by the condo association – even after the Bank’s successful foreclosure. The implications of the decision are stark if not altogether surprising: the condominium association always gets its money. Always.

Facts

In 2010 Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. as Trustee for Loan Trust # 2004-1, Asset-Backed Certificates, Series 2004-1 (“Deutsche”) purchased a unit at a judicial foreclosure sale. On March 27, 2012 condominium association 1010 Lake Shore Assoc. (the “Management Association”) sent Deutsche a Demand for Payment referencing unpaid common area expenses incurred during the time the unit was owned by the former occupant. Deutsche filed an Answer and the Management Association moved for Summary Judgment; arguing that there was no question of material fact as to the amount owed or Deutsche’s failure to pay assessments.

Ciruit Court Opinion: MSJ

The Management Association argued in its Motion for Summary Judgment in the Circuit Court of Cook County that based on Sec.9(g)(3) of the Illinois Condominium Property Act (“Act”), 765 ILCS 605/9(g)(3), the lien arising from the former owner’s unpaid assessments was not extinguished by Deutsche’s foreclosure because Deutsche had failed to pay assessments accruing after the judicial sale.

For its part, Deutsche responded that it could not be held liable under Sec.9(g)(3) for unpaid assessments that accrued before it purchased the unit. Following a hearing the Trial Court granted Summary Judgment and awarded the Management Association possession of the property. Continue reading

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Christopher B. Burke Engineering, Ltd. vs. Heritage Bank of Central IL

Docket No. 118955 Opinion Filed November 19, 2015

In this Opinion the Illinois Supreme Court comes down on the side of common sense when it comes to lienable improvements under §1 of the Illinois Mechanics Lien Act 770 ILCS 60/1. After reversing the lower Courts however, the case was sent back down to the Circuit Court to determine whether the owner of the property “knowingly permitted” improvements to be made.

Facts

In 2006 Carol and Glen Harkins (collectively, the “Harkins”) offered to buy property from Carol Shenck (“Shenck”) for the purpose of subdividing it and developing a subdivision. Burke Engineering (“Burke”) was hired by the Harkins to perform necessary prep work related to the development of the property. So while the work performed by Burke was integral to, and resulted in, improvements to the property (plat of subdivision, etc.), at the time that the work was done under a contract with Harkins, the property was still owned by Shenck. Eventually, the Harkins closed and development began according to the work done by Burke.

Heritage Bank of Central Illinois (“Heritage”) financed the purchase of the property in 2007 and held a Mortgage Lien. But thanks to the Great Recession, work stopped in 2008 and the Harkins failed to pay Burke (or anyone else). As 2008 dragged on however, Burke had still not been paid and eventually the company filed a Mechanics Lien against property – which by this time was owned by the Harkins (the “Lien”). In response, the Harkins filed Bankruptcy. This left Burke to foreclose its lien or not get paid at all.

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Henderson Square Condo. Assoc’n v. LAB Townhomes, LLC et al.
Citation: 2015 IL 118139 Opinion Date: November 4, 2015

After LAB Townhomes, the developer of Henderson Square, made false sales claims, built shoddy units, and engaged in fraud and negligent conduct in order to sell units, the Condominium Association sued it under the Chicago Municipal Code’s prohibition on the use of material misrepresentations, as well as Illinois case and statutory law relating to breach of the implied warranty of habitability, fraud, and negligence.

Following an initial defeat in the Trial Court based on allegedly filing late, the Appellate Court and eventually the Illinois Supreme Court determined that the bad actions of the developer permitted a longer time-horizon for the Plaintiff condo owners to pursue their rights.

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BoA v. Caulkett, 13–1421 (Jun 1) Supreme Court of the United States

Background

This case came to the Supreme Court due to a Circuit split on the issue of “Lien Stripping.” In this pair of cases the Debtors both filed Chapter 7 Bankruptcy cases, owned houses encumbered with senior mortgages and “underwater” junior mortgages held by the Petitioner banks. Because the amount owed on each senior mortgage was greater than each house’s current market value, the Banks would have received nothing if they foreclosed on the junior liens (i.e. underwater).

Debtors sought to void their junior mortgage liens under the terms of Bankruptcy Code §506, which provides that “To the extent that a lien secures a claim against the debtor that is not an allowed secured claim, such lien is void.” 11 USC §506(d). In each case, the Bankruptcy Court granted the Debtor’s respective motions, and both the District Court and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.

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